Ronnie Brewer has had an up and down season so far this year. In November, Brewer shot 46% from the field and 41% from the three-point line. The latter was a huge uptick from his career average of just 26%. In Decemeber, he is shooting just 26% from the field, and an abysmal 16% from beyond the arc. Brewer’s poor shooting has resulted in him playing only 16 minutes per game in his last 10 games.
It’s clear that Coach Woodson has decided to play Brewer less in an effort to increase scoring and to help spread the floor. This has resulted in some increases in playing time for Chris Copeland, but mostly an earlier entrance for J.R. Smith. Smith has been great in his last 10 games, averaging over 19 points per game in 33 minutes off the bench.
Iman Shumpert, who has been recovering from a torn ACL he had repaired during the playoffs last season, is getting ready to return in early February. It’s unclear if Shumpert will come off the bench or start. Most of the season Jason Kidd has been starting at the two-guard, but he was not brought in to play heavy minutes. However, now that Raymond Felton is sidelined 4-6 weeks with a fractured right pinky, J-Kidd will be starting at point guard. This moves Ronnie Brewer from the 3 to the 2, which is also Shumpert’s main position.
Woodson may choose to bench Brewer, and bring the equally defensively minded Shumpert into the starting line up. Last season, he averaged 9.5 ppg, 2.8 apg, and 3.2 rpg in 29 minutes. Shumpert was a streaky shooter throughout his first season, and finished with a field goal percentage of just 40%. The reason he made the All-Rookie First-Team was his close to elite level perimeter defense, and that is what the Knicks are hoping he brings when he returns to the lineup.
The Knicks have struggled this season containing the league’s best isolation perimeter players like James Harden and Kobe Bryant. Even a player like Suns’ forward Jared Dudley was able to have a career night from the perimeter. That is where Shumpert and Brewer are needed the most. Marcus Camby’s return has already helped rebounding and defending down low, and that is hoped to get better when Rasheed Wallace returns from his stress reaction in his foot.
If Shumpert didn’t lose much of his tenacity and athleticism from the injury, then his minutes may come from the depleted Ronnie Brewer. Brewer’s defense has remained consistent, but he can’t stay on the floor due to his recent inability to knock down even an open shot. If Brewer can’t get his act together in the next few weeks, then he may just play himself out of the starting line-up.